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The best laid plans can often have unintended consequences. When Bonneville Dam was built on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington in the 1930s, the inclusion of fish ladders was revolutionary , and a direct reaction to the tens of thousands that depended on the salmon industry. The need to keep the waterways open for the millions of salmon, steelhead, and other fish that travel to spawn every spring became even more vital as many of the fish that use the ladders were placed on the endangered species list.
In concept, the plan is sound, and has helped raise the fish population over the years . Now the Bonneville Dam is facing a new problem that is placing the delicate fish population in grave danger: sea lions.
The Bonneville Dam fish ladders have become a buffet for sea lions migrating to the warmer California waters. Over the past few years, the salmon survival rate has continued to drop . In 2012 the survival rate was 82 percent. Just two short years later, the survival rate dropped to 55 percent.
Currently, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is working to protect the fish population by culling sea lions . Although they claim killing the sea lions is a last resort, nearly 40 have been killed in the first 6 months of 2017. What is most galling is that the sea lions are also federally protected , giving the Department of Fish and Wildlife the choice between killing an endangered species, or allowing an endangered species to be killed.
This problem is entirely man-made. Without the dam and the fish ladder, the salmon wouldnt be such easy targets for the sea lions. Instead of killing off sea lions to solve a human made problem, The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to concentrate on humane, non-lethal methods like trapping and relocating. Trading the lives of one protected species for another is a battle that will never have a winner.
Tell the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to work on humane solutions that will benefit both the sea lions and the salmon!
To the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife,
The Bonneville Dam has been a fixture on the Columbia river for more than 80 years. While the conservation efforts to protect the salmon and other fish who use the dams fish ladders yielded great results, the recent encroachment of sea lions using the fish ladders to easy access to food has caused an untenable situation.
Both the sea lions and salmonids are protected species, which makes the situation difficult, but the killing of sea lions preying on the fish is horrific and unnecessary. The problem is entirely man-made, and taking the life of a protected species as a solution to an issue we created is vile. The dam limits the sea lions ability to find food, and essentially forces them to hunt the fish ladders.
The protection of both species is vital to the ecosystem, and culling the sea lion population for simply trying to feed themselves needs to end. The resources of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would be far better served finding safe, non-lethal methods of removal such as trap and release. The delicate sea lion population should not pay for human errors!